pieces of advice for people with ADHD who want to understand themselves better
People with ADHD often feel misunderstood and alone. You may not understand why you act or think the way you do. I want to reassure you right now and say that it’s not uncommon. ADHD is a complex disability that has multiple symptoms, and those symptoms having side effects, which end up being more symptoms, or clashing with other disabilities. To understand yourself and your ADHD better, this blog post will have a fairly analytical point of view.
However, the concepts will remain broad and the examples will have a few different outcomes, because we all have our own little brand of ADHD. It’s possible that some examples don’t apply to you unless you tweak them a little, and I encourage you to do so! In the end, understanding your ADHD and your relationship to it can only help, and that is what I will try to help with today.
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advice for adhd, by adhd.
We’ve all encountered some kind of “nice, but unwanted” help for our ADHD. When neurotypical people try to help someone with ADHD, they often do not understand what the person is going through. This can lead to frustration on both sides. Neurotypical people may feel like the person with ADHD is being lazy or stubborn, while person with ADHD may feel like they are being misunderstood, ignored, or judged.
For anyone here who may benefit from this: if you are a neurotypical person trying to help someone with ADHD, it is important to take the time to understand what they are going through. Try to ask them questions about how they are feeling and what they need from you. Be patient and understanding, and don’t get frustrated if they don’t respond in the way you expect.
Here, ADHD is the norm.
In my social circles (which are very small and few) being neurodivergent, and namely, having ADHD, is a common denominator. I’ve been living that ADHD life for a decade, and I hope to be able to convey help in a way that will work for you.
why are you the way that you are?
Sound familiar? Apart from being a popular and funny line from a show… the name currently escapes my brain, but that’s not the point being made here. Having ADHD is a lot like looking a derpy cat video on YouTube. You have a lot of questions, looking from the outside and seeing the behavior displayed here, but you can’t really intervene, or warn the silly cat that he should really not climb up the curtains… and the curtain rod just fell. #toldyouso.
The answer to this question doesn’t really exist, unless you count the very unhelpful “because I have ADHD” option. So we are here, we have ADHD, and we’re not really in control of what happens, especially in social situations. That lack of control, however, can be tied to the fact that we think way faster than we talk, and sometimes(often, in my case) we get our wires crossed.
This can result in something funny, something confusing, and sometimes, we may hurt some feelings.
no one wants to have adhd
It’s always a hilarious concept to me that people think we’re doing this on purpose, and FOR ATTENTION, no less. I’m pretty sure I can think of about a dozen ways of getting attention, POSITIVE attention, even, that does not include having ADHD.
Why, you ask? Because Imposter syndrome.
I’m bringing this up because a lot of us are stuck with this fun little thing called the Imposter Syndrome. I want you to remember that you are not doing this on purpose, no matter what people think, and that you are just trying your best to cope with a disorder that is kicking all our butts. So, chill. You’re not trying to get attention, you’re not trying to one-up everyone else, you’re just trying to get through your day.
adhd is f*ckin weird
Yes, it certainly is. One day, you’re a dopamine-chasing mess of hyper-focus and 18-hour days of working on a ~thing~, and the next, you just zoned out for three hours and feel like you forgot half of your brain on your pillow when you got up.
While this example is taking it a little to the extreme, it’s still a very good depiction of how ADHD can just bounce from one end to the other fairly quickly. And the thing is, we don’t control that.
we can’t control that.
There is no flip to switch to go from hyperactive to inattentive, and there’s certainly no OFF button to the ADHD train wreck.
but seriously, why though?
The only known reason(to date) as to WHY we are a chaotic-disaster is about an observation made of a brain with ADHD vs a neurotypical brain. It’s the only known reason because it is also the only physical proof of a difference. On the two brain scans, there was a clear difference in the neural pathways used primarily to bring information from the conscious mind to the subconscious mind.
Our neural pathways, responsible to bring data to our subconscious mind… They’re not even taking the same route. THEY GET THERE, but they have a physically different routing, which can only make me wonder: how big is the impact from that on our subconscious mind?
great, i have a brain defect
Well hey, at least this one is visible on a brain scan. Jokes aside, the data from your conscious mind still makes its way to your subconscious, there is no doubt about that. Without it, you would have absolutely zero short-term memory, and not much of a “muscle memory,” if at all. While we cannot make habits very easily, we do have automatic sequences in place: the action of eating with a fork or a spoon, or being able to write coherently, being able to tie your shoelaces, etc.
We still have a pretty poor understanding of the human brain, so chances are that you wouldn’t be able to remember anything at all, or think. Then again, one could argue that if the data didn’t make its way to the subconscious, you would just not be able to function. Or live. Part of the automatic sequences I spoke of include little things such as breathing and keeping your heart beating.
It’s working, it’s just not working as well as it should.
Since the subconscious part of the brain is even more elusive than the conscious part, it is very difficult to tell exactly how much effect our deviated neural pathways have on our life. One thing’s for sure, the neural pathway for habit-making is fried. But habits are just one thing. How about routines? They are technically habits, in the form of a sequence of actions done at roughly the same time. Well, for you, maybe… My routines are about as timely as my sleep schedule, which is not much.
But bear with me and think about, say, your morning routine. No matter what time it may be, you’ll wake up. Maybe open the curtains. Brush your teeth. Start the coffee machine and get a little something to eat. Maybe you’ll shower, or sit down and check out today’s news.
Isn’t that a habit in itself? Where is the exact line between “can learn” and “can’t learn”?
development of the adhd brain
It’s not great to hear (or read), but people with ADHD have brains that develop more slowly. As adults, the brain scans showed that the differences were minimal. Some exceptions, of course; the prefrontal cortex and the cerebellum being smaller, as well as our grey matter levels being reduced.
It’s time to talk about the cerebellum
FUN FACT: Did you know that the posterior lobes of the cerebellum are mainly activated/fueled by… dopamine? SEEMS LIKE A WEIRD COINCIDENCE TO ME.
It has been scientifically observed that due to needing dopamine (and our ADHD brains not creating much of that) the cerebellum doesn’t quite work as well. While it is mostly known for motor skills and precision skills, it is now also associated to cognition, aka learning.
We don’t always have issues learning, though; as long as the subject is interesting, we can certainly keep up. That is because of a phenomenon known as “motivational deficit due to a dopamine dysfunction.” Our basal ganglia should be making more dopamine than it is, and because it doesn’t, we have trouble giving a f*ck when the subject is boring. While unconfirmed, it may well be the reason why ADHD often = Depression.
I’ve complained in other blog posts about how routines come effortlessly for neurotypical people, while we have to keep conscious control of it. Well, thanks to our small cerebellum, not only can we not keep routines, but we also have trouble learning, whether through repetition or learning from our errors(that explains… SO much).
I Don’t wanna wait
I’ve been insulting our small cerebellums for long enough, so I shall move on to some more interesting facts: it is not a secret that we ADHD-ers have issues with long-term goals and tend to go for instant gratification. Now is the time to talk about that prefrontal cortex of ours; where executive function deficits and an impairment of goal representation makes for sh!tty goal setting.
BLAME YOUR PREFRONTAL CORTEX
Anyway. Oddly enough, only the right-hand side of the brain has a smaller prefrontal cortex section. The prefrontal cortex is what is responsible for regulating attention, behavior, and emotion, with the right hemisphere specialized for behavioral inhibition. So, not only is the overall situation sh!tty, but our center for impulsiveness control is even sh!ttier. Finally, the prefrontal cortex also affects the understanding of cause-and-effect, long-term memory, changing habits, and reading social cues.
As far as we look, we see difficulties and obstacles. How did we ever think that ADHD was not a disability?
Good question, maybe one day we’ll have the answer.
From a scientific point of view, we’re missing a lot of information. However, the little info we do have gives us some very interesting insight, and I’d sure love to see more.
As far as ADHD being a disability, it is said that it can be counted as one if the symptoms are severe enough. I think their criteria are most likely too high; just because I can somewhat function does not mean that my ADHD is not severe. I’m just good at making up for it.